Winter Training Athlete’s Blog

Final Day – Saturday, December 20, 2014



Athlete: Nicholas Maodush-Pitzer’15

Home Town: Grand Rapids, MI
Major: Elementary Education

As with all sports, rowing is very much a sensory experience. It takes an acute understanding of each action we make in a boat to really make a boat move fast, or “sing”, as Coach Bancheri likes to explain it. This week, with the beautiful weather and the near flawless water (even in the big bay!) we have been practicing, on the Laker Navy has been afforded the opportunity to fine-tune our ability to string together the five senses we experience while rowing.

Beginning with the written daily practice plans, we are able to learn/review what it is we will be feeling in the boat over the course of practice. Once at practice, we get to partake in Coach B’s famed Chalk Talks, listening to the wisdom of a man who’s been in the rowing world for around 40 years, and even being asked to simulate some rowing principles on land that we will be challenged to duplicate on the water. For example, one such exercise that we have done a few times this week was sitting toe-to-toe on the ground with a partner and trying to stand up, showing us how much easier it is to do so when our arms are kept straight and the quads are engaged, versus doing so with straight arms, thus putting a lot of stress in the shoulders. In doing so we can optimize the muscles we use as we move through each stroke. In this way we get to simulate the proper feel of a strong, effective drive through the water.

Early in the week, our sense of sound in the boat was reinforced, as Coach had us focusing on the end of the stroke as the blades release from the water and feather towards the bow, the sleeves rotating inside their oarlocks simultaneously, making a resonating *click* as all of the oarspeople prepare to slide towards the next stroke. As we get up to the catch Coach also focused our ears towards hearing a simultaneous *thunk* as our blades back into the water, creating a vacuum for a split second in front of, then behind the blade. For me, these two distinctive sounds are the biggest struggle over the course of the stroke, as they imply perfect timing with one, three, or seven other oarsmen. This doubles as the biggest rush of all, however, as it indicates a cohesiveness of a crew that understands the minute details necessary for optimal boat speed.

Another helpful tool for rowers to use and has been practiced this week is the visual cues that we experience from stroke to stroke. As coach reminds us frequently, especially when practicing circle drills in small boats, is that “the eyes are world’s best camera.” That is, what we see in our own and each others’ strokes can help us more than anything else, since we can produce immediate feedback on both our strengths and weaknesses. Our eyes allow us to follow along with the person in front of us, timing our body movements together as we get ready to match up those audible parts of the stroke together.

The smells and tastes of rowing get a little more fuzzy, so here goes nothing. Having spent eight hot Florida days practicing and rooming together, it would be easy for an outsider to guess that we have been working hard all week, sweating through the same t-shirts and spandex multiple times over, creating quite the unpleasant scent that we drag along with us through our hotel rooms, to practice, and to the beach. Despite the showers, dips in the swimming pool, and breezy trips to the beach we manage to carry with us a pungent, well-earned, and victorious scent. It is a scent indicative of a hard-practicing, hard-relaxing crew that collectively wants one thing for themselves and each other: the taste of sprint season victory. (See, I made it all work)

Looking back on the least eight days it can safely be said, and has been said by Coach B, that this has been a highly successful week of trainging, even the most successful week of winter training Grand Valley Rowing has ever put together, culminating in a three hour practice of speed work and technical mastery, followed by a few hours of cooling out on the beach. From the coaching staff, to the guest coaches, to the captains, to the varsity and novice rowers, this week has been gone by without a hitch, using combination of cooperation and patience that allows us to both put it all on the water and kick it with each other off the water. It’s one of the greatest parts of Grand Valley Rowing that lets me know these past three and a half years in this program has been completely worth it, and the next half year has great things in store for the entire team.

On behalf of the E-Board, I would like to thank all members of the Laker Navy that have made this trip possible. This trip could not have happened without all of our parents, GV faculty, academic advisors, and alumni that have provided us the chance to soak up some tropical sun and have valuable water time in the middle of the indoor rowing season.


Day Seven – Friday, December 19, 2014



Athlete: Kaitlyn Van Boven’15

Home Town: Fremont, MI
Major: Elementary Education

It’s hard to believe that today is already Friday, and our adventures here in Florida are coming to an end. Today was our last full day off practices. The morning practice was a long, but productive one for us women. We made it to the end of the rowable part of the river and ended up rowing a total of 14 miles for the morning. We got off the water exhausted, but with a feeling of accomplishment knowing how much mileage we had just put in. As Coach B and Fairbairn always says, “Mileage makes champions.” After eating lunch at the course we headed back to the hotel for a power nap to get ready for another productive practice.

This evening’s practice was another great practice with a lot of miles put in. This time we were in eights with varsity and novices mixed. It was great to have novices in the boat to learn from us varsity rowers, and to also work on the basics. Even though this is my fourth year rowing, I’m still learning to perfect the basics. Even today I had an “aha” moment when Coach Hugh pointed out a simple fix to the finish of my stroke. It is important to continue to grow in the sport and make productive changes every day on the water.

At the end of practice the entire fleet of GVSU boats came together to take the traditional winter break picture. We line all the boats together as the blades cross. We then all stand up and pose with our hands in the air. After the picture was taken, we rowed back the docks and put our boats away for the night. Coach was given two Row Tampa 2015 shirts to give to the two deserving athletes. We held a friendly contest to decide who would get them. For the women Allison Pingston won with her impressive one legged squat skills, and for the men Nick MP won with his extraordinary twerking skills. After our fun contests, we made our way back to the hotel where we ate delicious pizza. It was like a magic show when 36 large pizzas disappeared in 10 minutes. Overall, today was a great day. Looking forward to another great morning of rowing a beach day tomorrow!

Athlete: Dom Fischer’15
Home Town: Ada, MI
Major: Chemistry/Cell and Molecular Biology

This morning started off by getting up at 6:45. On my way down to the team room with a couple fellow rowers for breakfast, we spotted our assistant coach Allison Sobiech and offered a hand with the food. After the walk over to the practice course , I proceeded to launch in a pair with my partner Vince Amatangelo. While we were out doing circle drills in the pairs the women headed out in 4’s. Vince and I had been pair partners the day before as well and after this mornings practice we could not help but talk about the improvement in our balance and power.

After practice a couple of the guys and I went down to the pool for a quick dip between practice. When 3 o’clock rolled around the Men’s 1v and 2v launched for a long steady state row with Coach B. On this long row we were able to see parts of the bay that we had never seen. Before all the boats made the return trip to the dock we all gathered for a team picture out in front of the Tampa Bay Convention Center. The team was treated tonight with a generous team dinner from Domino’s. These days in Tampa have been both productive and fun. There have been great improvements across the board by rowers both experienced and novice. Based on what I have seen so far I am very excited for the competitive spring season to come.


Day Six – Thursday, December 18, 2014



Athlete: Morgan Ebright’18

Home Town: Ann Arbor, MI
Major: Secondary Education

Today started out like all of the previous ones. The team went down and ate breakfast then headed over to the boats. The weather has been great this entire week and today was no different. The sun was shining and it was quite warm. For the first practice I coxed the women in a four and we worked on technical training. We did many drills for the most part. Towards the end we got into some rowing by all fours for a little while. We got off the water, had lunch, and headed back to the hotel. The morning row went well over all.

After the morning row many of us layed out in the sun by the pool, while others slept in their hotel rooms. I love the break in between practices because I get to lay by the pool, tan, take a nap, and on some days go exploring around this wonderful area. There is so much to do and when you’re with your friends it makes everything better.

During the afternoon practice we had a chalk talk which was very helpful. We discussed hydrodynamic lift. We used oars to help demonstrate a good catch angle and worked on backing in the blade. The team split up differently for this practice. I was in a men’s four and with coach Hugh. There was also another men’s four and a women’s eight in our group. We did many drills and then a good steady state row. During the practice a cruise ship went by. We were all surprised how little the wake was. The afternoon practice was very informative, and entertaining. So far this trip has been great, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Athlete: Donald Jensen’18

Home Town: Grosse Ile, MI
Major: Mechanical Engineering

The morning started off bright and early at 6:30 for me. I headed off to the course to coach Seth a friend of Coach Bancheri who came with us to learn how to row. Seth is a professor at Northwestern University and is a very quick learner. After just a few drills he was able to row full strokes in a single. After my little coaching session with Seth I joined up with the rest of the team. We had a short pre-practice talk and headed out to drills in pairs. We did many drills in the pairs that emphasized on backing our catches in cleanly and applying pressure properly to have a more effective stroke. After we came back to the dock we washed down the equipment and had a wonderful lunch of sandwiches and other treats. Then we headed back to the hotel for a few hours of rest and relaxation.

After a nice nap we headed back to the course for our second practice of the day. We started off by using oars on land to help explain that the oar needs to square down to the bow as we prepare for the catch. After this excellent explanation I headed out in a group of two men’s 4+’s and a women’s 8+ accompanied by Coach Hugh. We did many drills cycling through using just our outside and inside hands to help us continue to improve our catches. After having to turn around and head back up river due to strong winds we were met with another interesting challenge. A cruise ship just happened to head down the river when we turned around at was taking up the entire river. Luckily the ship didn’t make a large wake and passed us by with no issues. After this interesting and productive row we headed back to hotel and most of us went out into downtown Tampa for dinner followed by some much needed down time. All-in-all in was a very productive, fun, and interesting day down in beautiful Tampa Florida.


Day Five – Wednesday, December 17, 2014



Coach: Tom Janiak

Home Town: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Major: Graduate Studies – Public Admin.

Every once in a while I get the opportunity to practice with the kids on the water, today was one of them. The water could not have been any better, minimal boat traffic with calm winds. Our workout was brutal but very beneficial to the crew’s development, each boat worked hard resulting in a tight spread throughout practice. Every time I’m out with Head Coach John B I learn something new, and being on the receiving end of his work, I developed a clear understanding of the team’s success through their work on the water.

Today was also our second beach day at Clearwater Beach. The team had a great time and the weather was warm and sunny, with a light breeze that we could have done without. The team enjoyed beach volleyball, beach soccer, and of course swimming. We may have been the only people in the water, our thick Michigan skin compared to the native Floridians, but we enjoyed it as if it was bath water.

The team is ready and willing for the remaining days of our trip, five practices and 1 beach day left in our trip before we get to go home to cold Michigan for the holidays.

Athlete: Spencer West’15

Home Town: Grand Rapids, MI
Major: Wildlife Biology

Today began as most mornings do on these training trips; we arose early for breakfast before our morning practice. However, today was a scheduled beach day, which meant that the morning practice would be longer to make up for the missed afternoon row. When we walked to the practice location across the river from our hotel, it was yet another beautiful morning in Tampa. Once on the water in eights, practice ran as is typical of Wednesday practices for Grand Valley Rowing: with pieces. The three men’s eights battled each other around Davis Island all across the Tampa Bay. The pieces brought about the best in each of us, as we were rowing by sixes, the pair sitting out was always shouting at and encouraging the other six members of their crew, pushing them to their limits. The coxswains kept the boats near together, forcing constant focus and maximum effort from all of the rowers, reminding them that every stroke counts.

Once finished with the pieces, the practice shifted to a more technical focus. We spent time focusing on the recovery and our timing specifically, along with the entire stroke. Throughout the entire training camp and during today’s practice especially, I have noticed monumental improvements across the entire team. Today, my particular boat noticed significant differences when we ceased worrying about all of the things going on around us and focused within our own boat. Instantly we began swinging together, increasing the run of the boat and thus our overall speed.

After the long and exhausting practice, we ate a lunch prepared by the assistant coaches before departing for Clearwater Beach for another day of fun in the sun. It was a refreshing day at the beach as everybody kept busy by playing volleyball, soccer, taking a walk along the shore, swimming in the waves, or just relaxing. And of course, most importantly, ice cream. By the time the bus came to pick us up from the beach, all were thoroughly exhausted from the day’s events.

Though we are just over halfway through the trip, the improvements seen have been incredible, especially from the underclassmen. It is great to see the younger and newer members of the team so determined to improve their ability, making the entire team faster. It is these improvements that will continue to raise the standards of our program, as we strive each day to get faster. Even on days such as today, which we all know was going to be a difficult practice, the entire team has been eager to hit the water and see how they can improve their oarsmanship. This training camp has already been extremely successful, and we go into the last few days of this trip with the focus to add to the accomplishments made by the team thus far.


Athlete: Lexie Benton’15

Home Town: Kingsley, MI
Major: Business Management

We woke up this Wednesday morning to another beautiful day. It started out warmer than normal with temperatures in the mid sixties with high humidity instead of the previous low fifties. This was a great change for our beach day but first we had to get through our normal hard Wednesday workout. Today’s workout consisted of three by sixteen minute pieces at higher rates than we were use to because we have been doing long and slow steady state rowing to working on technique since we have been in Florida. It was hard but also fun to go fast again. After the pieces we went for a cool down row to see Derek Jeter’s house. Sadly he wasn’t there…

After lunch and a well-deserved rest we left for our second beach day. Laying in sun, playing beach volleyball and soccer in the sand our team unwound even though we had to wrestle seagulls to keep our ice cream safe. Our poor birthday girl (Rhiannon McHenry) lost the end of her cone to one of those nasty boogers. Once we got back we cleaned up and made our way to dinner and got our beloved coxswain her birthday cheesecake. All in all it was a great day. Crazy to think we are already half way to the end of our trip.


Day Four – Tuesday, December 16, 2014



Athlete: Amber Crotty’18

Home Town: Fruitport, MI
Major: Physician Assisting

We awoke this morning to the low clouds of fog blanketing the city of Tampa, this at first looked challenging, but like usual this was not a challenge for the Laker Navy. The focus today from our chalk talk with coach Hugh was about the impulse, push, pull, draw! We hit the water in the same fours as the previous row, with the chance for the varsity to help the novice women work on their blade work and technique. This gave me a chance to see how the varsity gets it done so I relay that knowledge to the novice women. After the row I nibble on some nourishment and returned to the hotel with my team for some brief down time at the pool.

The afternoon row for the women’s novice team broke off from the varsity; this gave our coaches a chance to focus on working with the novice women more intimately. It also gave us the opportunity to explore part of the river that has only been see from the windows of our hotel rooms. Despite the obstacles of the construction under bridges, blaring sun in the eyes of my rowers, and choppy waters at the mouth of the gulf, Mama Amber pulled through and we had a great row, I am amazed at how far these girls have come since the start of the fall season. I witnessed the determination for improving one stroke at a time.

On the way back from our second row Allison jokingly suggested that we go jump in the pool, however the Laker Navy women accepted the challenge whole heartily and we headed to the pool. After the crew jumped in I allowed them to throw me in the pool. After being launched into the pool I regretted it, but looking back now I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I love coxing for these ladies they are the reason I wake up in the morning for practice with a smile on my face as bright as the sun.

Athlete: Keegan Brewster’16

Home Town: Howard City, MI
Major: Anthropology

Today Tuesday, December 16, 2014 was a two-a-day practice for the team. The first practice was at 8:30 in the morning, Coach John Bancheri gave a stimulating chalk talk to start, focusing on putting pressure on the blade with the legs immediately when it’s placed in the water to start the drive. The men’s team rowed around in the canal in a large open area next to Tampa’s convention center. It was extremely fogy which produced an eerie affect, being able to only see the silhouettes of the men in their pairs. It was like rowing on the river Styx with a team of ferryman. The men in pairs did circle drills on the water while a group of men in an eight rowed up stream working on blade placement while doing a lot of steady state. Lunch was served to the team around 11, sandwiches were the main course.

The teams then received free time of their own to participate in team bonding activities of their choosing. Some of the cooler guys on the team went out for a stroll on the town. We went to visit the John E. Germany Library just down the street. We also walked around downtown Tampa, exploring some of the city and looking at the shops and restaurants. During the break period in between practices many people on the team also took the opportunity to visit the hotel pool, the water was awfully cold but many enjoyed just laying out in the warm Florida sun. The team’s second practice was at 3:30pm. Before practice, a few of the men decided to explore a nearby park and had fun playing on a very unique slide found in it. For the second practice the men proceeded up river focusing mainly on the drive and leg work, training us to keep an even amount of pressure through the whole stroke. The whole team agreed that today’s evening practice was the best practice of the trip so far.

After everything today, a pizza dinner was provided for the team where everyone was able to enjoy themselves and get their fill. Over all the team has improved greatly in just the short time they’ve been in Florida, improving many of their technical skills as well as team coherence and bonding. It has been both educational and uplifting to the team’s spirits in the winter season.


Day Three – Monday, December 15, 2014



Athlete: Austin Gentry’16

Home Town: Corona, CA
Major: Philosophy/Political Science

Tampa Bay has shown to be a beautiful arena for rowing—clear skies, warm weather, and glassy water (excluding the occasional wake from a yacht or barge). The scenery is beautiful and has provided the team with some distraction to break up the monotony of the long, steady state rows. From Derek Jeter’s water front mansion to the commercial tanker ships to the carnival cruise ship (which coach is desperately yearning to be on) to the downtown high-rise buildings of Tampa; it’s all an interesting view and definitely has more area for boats to maneuver than the Grand.

Today marked our third day in Tampa and our first double day on the water. The morning practice consisted of several men’s varsity fours and a, predominantly novice, men’s eight. We spent a lot time doing stationary drills in the beginning of practice. As we continued to perfect our stroke with the stationary drills, the tide carried the boats to the central part of downtown Tampa. It is a cool venue to be in, The Tampa Convention Center is on one corner of an intersection; a high-class hotel on the other, and another corner consists of some other corporate complexes. We must have looked good, even the hotel bystanders couldn’t help but take a picture. Morning practice ended with some progression drills and a little bit of battle paddling by pairs on the way back to the docks. Food was provided and eaten unapologetically by the hungry oarsmen.

To conclude this third day, we capitalized on the perfect conditions of Tampa Florida once more by launching an armada of pairs. At this point, the varsity men have gained some geographical insights from the last three outings on the water and we flawlessly executed our steering through the many bridges of the channel. Once we paddled through the channel into the aforementioned intersection, we proceeded to complete some standard circle drills to improve our technique. Out of the entire fleet, my particular pair boasted the least amount of strokes to complete a circle, so we decided to take a dip into the refreshing water to cool off and reward ourselves for a great days work. So far the Florida trip has been wonderful, the team is improving greatly, and I know I speak for the entire team when I say how proud and grateful I am to be rowing for the Laker Navy.

Athlete: Carley Jensen’15

Home Town: Goodrich, MI
Major: Criminal Justice

This morning we all awoke and made our way down to the team room to get a bite to eat and then made our short walk over to the practice site across the street. Practice started with a chalk talk from Coach B about bladework and then we all launched. The boys in 4’s and the ladies in pairs and a novice 8. The pair row was long, but we got a lot of mileage in and covered a lot of technical work which is something that always helps. We did different ratio work, bob/placement drills, and even got to take some 10 stroke bursts. I remember one part of the row my pair partner, Kelsey VanAmberg and I couldn’t help but to comment on how amazing the weather was and just how great Tampa is for training.

After practice, the women’s team walked back to the hotel together and all went our separate ways for a while; the downtime makes for a wide variety of activities for us rowers. Myself and some others decided to go and lay out by the pool to read and soak up the sun. It was such a warm day, mid 70’s, and coming from Grand Rapids, we could not pass up the sunshine! Some of us got in the water a little, others laid out, and some of us even played a made up game involving a small ball and skipping it across the pool. It was fun to have some downtime between practice and hang out with the team.

Around 3pm we headed back to the practice site and this time the women were in mixed 4’s; the stern pairs were experienced varsity rowers, and the bow pairs were novice. It was nice for Coach Hugh to mix it up and give people a chance to observe others and for varsity to help out novice with any technique work or questions that they had. After a long row, mostly by pairs to keep the focus on getting good strokes in, we finally made it back to the dock, washed the boats and put our hands in for a solid GV on 3.

It has been a great first couple of days with the Laker Navy here in Tampa. The downtown scene is so fun, and the beach was beautiful. I am excited for the rest of the week! Bring on the training and then bring on the good times with some awesome teammates.


Day Two – Sunday, December 14, 2014



Athlete: Emily Koons’18


Home Town: East Lansing, MI
Major: Business

After a night out on the town with dinner and dancing yesterday, we all got some well needed rest for our festivities today. We started off the day with a very nice 10 mile row along the river. It’s so nice to finally feel the warmth of the sun on our backs during the workout, compared to the cold weather we have been experiencing throughout the last month or so!

But our day of fun in the sun didn’t stop there. After lunch, we all headed over to Clearwater Beach for some swimming, beach volleyball, beach soccer, frisbee, a giant chess game, and street performances. A couple of rowers made friends with the seagulls who would fly down and eat the food right out of your hand, and Logan Conner even managed to catch one under his towel! So far it’s been a great couple of days with an even greater group of people. I’m so happy that I get to be a part of this Laker Navy Family!

Athlete: Owen Homeister’18

Home Town: Sarasota, FL
Major: Business

Today we started out bright and early with our first morning row of winter break. It was 70 degrees and sunny. The sun was just rising as we were getting on the water and by the time we were around the island, it was completely above us. Lots of hydration and sustenance we be a must for long swing rows like this. Though I moved to Grand Valley from Florida, I have never visited this part of Tampa before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Coach Deakin provided us with sandwiches and snacks afterwards. As we devoured our food, I realized that the only thing I had to do today was go to the beach and have a great time with my great teammates.

When we arrived, Dominic and Austin instantly sprinted into the chilly Gulf of Mexico. We enjoyed volleyball and frisbee while the sun blinded those without sunglasses. After a couple hours of playing, I was exhausted. I took a nap on the beach and soaked up the sun. At last it was time to go home for some much needed rest and food before we start again early tomorrow. It was a great day overall and I can’t wait for what the week has in store.


Day One – Saturday, December 13, 2014



Athlete: Chris Doherty’17


Home Town: Traverse City, MI
Major: Movement Science

It feels great to be back here in Florida on another trip with the team. With the memories of last year’s trip still fresh I was very excited for this event, especially just after exams. After that stressful week, what could be a better way to blow off all that stress than the sun, the team, and a nice row.

After the long and cramped 24 hour bus ride the first few steps outside of the Barrymore Hotel were a sweet escape. Today was pleasant, a sunny day that wasn’t too hot but just right, perfect for a row. After a quick rig, off we went. It felt so nice to be out in an actual boat again and the long winding waterway was the perfect place to be. This winter training trip is shaping up to be just as great, if not better than, last years winter training trip.


Athlete: Amanda Kronemeyer’15

Home Town: Kalamazoo, MI
Major: Nursing

After 22.5 hours on the charter bus, we made it to warm and sunny Tampa. The team got off the bus and went straight to where our boats are being kept to unload and rig. The first day of a training trip we always get off the bus, rig the boats, and hurry onto the water to get in a long row in the nice conditions.

After our long row, we were able to grab a quick lunch and come back to the hotel to regroup. We got to Tampa and rowed earlier than schedule, so we got more of the afternoon to rest and adjust to life here. We were able to explore our surroundings a little bit and see what there is to eat, and rest up for tomorrow where we have another long row and a beach day. Overall a good day to end up in Florida, and great weather conditions for rowing and enjoying our winter break!


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